History

CHARLOTTE MASON & OTHER THINKERS

Back in the 1800s, education was facing HUGE changes. More and more people were learning to read, and countries wanted to educate the masses to work in factories. The type of education offered was typically dry, crowded, and harsh.

During that time, a young woman was learning about teaching and watching the world rapidly change around her. Having studied many different theorists and philosophers, Charlotte Mason decided to take the matter into her own hands to solve the problems of modern education. Over the course of 60 years, she wrote a philosophy of education, trained teachers, edited and founded an education journal, started schools, and led an organization of educators and parents called the PNEU. Public, private, and home schools followed her ideas and used her organization’s curriculum, which is deeply established in two primary thoughts:

CORE BELIEF: Children are persons, thus they have the innate desire to learn and live fully.

CORE PRACTICE: Children are respected as persons, thus they are put into enriching relationships with the vast inheritance of knowledge around them- with ideas, others, and the natural world- through rich language. They know AND care!

It spread like wildfire.

100 years later, her ideas are spreading like wildfire again and the world is still in need of them. Mason’s approach to relational education has been thriving in the private and home schools in North America for 20 years now, and it’s finally making it’s mark again in the public schools through charter schools like Gillingham!

Other Thinkers
There are other humanist philosophers who ascribe to relational educational ideas. Our school looks to these thinkers and organizations as guides who confirm and implement Mason’s ideas about learning:

GILLINGHAM UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

In her geography book, Charlotte Mason spoke of the amazement a colleague felt when traveling through the anthracite region and Pottsville during the early 1900’s. The air was clean, quite unlike the polluted air of the cities in England. People came from all over to work the mines and to farm the fields. Not only did the Pennsylvania Dutch settle here, but so did the Irish, German, Italian, African, Slovakian, Lithuanian, Dutch, and Russian.

This city also provided a safe-haven for those escaping extreme oppression. Unknown too many, Pottsville had its own “railway station” and “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. The Gillingham Quaker family risked fortune and life by harboring escaped slaves from the South as they worked their way to Canada. Perhaps coincidently, St. John the Baptist Elementary School’s building – the future site of Gillingham’s schoolhouse – rests on land originally owned by Quakers…the small Quaker cemetery sits between the schoolhouse and the woods of Sharp Mountain.

POTTSVILLE AND SCHUYLKILL COUNTY

Located in Eastern Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region, Pottsville is the county seat of Schuylkill County and is neighbored by many boroughs, villages, and “patches” that spot the mountains and valleys.

This region is rich in history, culture, and hard work. The mountains not only provide power-giving resources but they also feature gorgeous views, sanctuaries for migrating raptors, fly-fishing, biking, hiking, nature gawking, and big and small critters that often visit the town folk! The valleys provide space for agriculture, especially Christmas trees, fresh milk (and ice cream), and wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables.